The pressure to be happy

It’s an interesting thing living abroad. Many people tell you they would never do it, not be able to cope with it, while at the same time expect you to be having a whale of a time.

So I’ll get to the point. I’m not having a whale of a time. I’m really struggling out here. It’s tough. It’s really really, really really tough. Culture shock/isolation/homesickness has slowly sunk in deep. My anxiety has been rising to almost panic attack levels at some points. And I feel disappointed that it’s not working out for me. It’s disappointing and frustrating.

So my actual job, when I teach, and the kids are enjoying it, its fun. I can be pretending to play a broken recorder one minute, playing musical chairs another, and acting as a conductor to a 30 strong chorus of kids learning how to tell the difference between “I can/I can’t” the next.

However I am only teaching an average of 4 lessons a day. That’s 45mins x 4 = 3hrs. The rest of the time is the problem in my 8hr shift. I sit in the staff room, isolated due to language barriers, listening to other staff chatting, which after an hour or so gets really overwhelming, so I’ll take a walk round and have a breather for 5/10 mins. Then back to my desk (no internet btw, so limited lesson planning). At breaks I try get out with the kids and have fun, that I enjoy, but despite having say, a 30 min break, it’s so regimented that only like 10 mins will be “free play time” where the rest will be stuff like cleaning, productive skills etc.

At the end of the day, the silence begins.  I drive half an hour home, get some food on, eat, shower, and sit lesson planning till about 7.30pm. Then once I feel ready for tomorrow, I’ll maybe walk to the shops and get some essentials or watch TV. Then read and sleep. Repeat x 5.

For some reason I’ve started to get really bad anxiety in the mornings before heading off to work. I’ll feel like I can’t do the lessons, that something awful is going to happen, and it takes a huge effort to step out the door. Once I get to work and settle in it tends to fade. Same goes for heading out to the shops. I get stared out (it’s rural and I am a rare sight), so often I try go at night, as when I’m anxious the stares can make me feel paranoid and claustrophobic.

Joining clubs, or doing stuff locally is impeded my my lack of Japanese language skills. People can welcome trying to chat to a foreigner at first, like the novelty you are, but after a while it grows old, and is too awkward and hard. I’m also more an introvert in personality type, so pushing myself out into peoples space and forcing them to be friends with me is really not my style.

There are very few people here doing the same job, and half are on different schedules making it very hard to meet up with them. I try to get out at the weekends, see stuff around me. Some of it is awesome, there is a great beach nearby, hill tops with great views. But I don’t feel part of it. I feel outside of it all, living here, yet not being home.

OK,  I sound moany and shit, but this blog is a release. I have not written on this blog much since I’ve been here. I think of things I wanna talk about, then my emotions change so quick I decide maybe its best not too. It’s hard to admit when you make a major decision that it’s not working out. You feel people will see you as naive in your original decision, not understanding what it was going to be like. I knew it was going to be tough, I suppose though I underestimated just how tough the long term effects of lack of meaningful conversation/relationships would be. You know people want to think of you as happy and enjoying it, and GDI! you want that too! But at least letting people know  means shit does not get bottled up, making you like a pressure cooker.

I’m 100% glad I came here. I have been able to find out so much about what i’m capable of. But I feel long term living here is not for me. This is not my calling, it’s a stepping stone, an important one.

That’s it for now, I kinda wanna write a bit more regularly, cause writing this Ive realized how nice it is to just spill the words from my brain! Hope you are well 🙂

 

 

Transman in Japan

Hello!

I have now been in Japan for 7 weeks, and have been in my job here for 3 weeks. I have finally come round to this blog again to give an update.

These past 7 weeks have been crazy really. I’ve done stuff I never thought I would ever do, EVER. My emotions have switched and flipped and rollercoaster’d all over the place from hour to hour, day to day. I have gone from:

  1. Hating presentations so much as a kid it would make me phyically sick, and I would find it hard to leave the house.
  2. To singing a stupid song with actions for a group of adults at training, trying to get them to join in.
  3. To standing in front of 30 10 y/o’s in a Japanese public school and encouraging them to sing the ABC song with actions.

How has my trans identitiy coped with all the changes? Well, lets break it down.

Travelling

I travelled with needles, syringes, Nebido and Prostap in my carry on bag. They were all neatly together in a zip bag with documents and leaflets.  This was nerve wracking. Highest security was in the UK whilst leaving. I informed the customs lady at security check area I had medication that was liquid and not in a clear case ( I did not mention the needles). Thankfully, in the packed room she did not ask me what it was, just told me to put it through the scanner and if they wanted to ask more they would pull me aside.

They asked no questions. I was glad because I also did not want a bag search as I had a STP hanging around in there.  I did get beeped though going through the X-ray body scanner and got a pat down. I was not packing. Nothing was mentioned. First step OK.

I found all the airports had plenty of toliet cubicle facilities so this was no problem. Abu Dhabi I had to go though security again despite staying in the same terminal for the transfer. I was particularly concerned at this airport because of the country’s reputation for treatment of transgender people. How would they take a load of needles, steroids, and an STP?

This check was more lax though. It was busy, and I started to take out liquids from my bag (shampoo etc) only to be told by a harried security just to leave everything in the bag. No body pat down, no bag questions. Another sigh of relief.

On the plane to Narita I had to fill in a declaration form about bring in prohibited or restricted items. The form was ambiguous in it’s wording and I used this to my advantage. Basically I had already declared to Japan I was bringing in drugs and needles, and I had a certificate from them. Therefore, what I had was not “not allowed”. I did not check the box.

At Narita I was slow coming out due to having to wait 45 mins to get a residence card. I was bricking it about this, last time I had come to Japan and got finger prints done I was down as “female” and using my old name. Would my prints now flash up with a “WARNING” sign?….. nope. I was so shocked and nervous when she handed me the documents I was shaking like a leaf.

Finally the customs/bag check area, I grappled with all my bags and documents and stumbled over to one of the desks, dumping a load down and handing over what he needed. Internally wishing to hell to pass on a bag check which I saw several other foreigners going through at the desks around me. Would I get in trouble for a non-declaration? All I was asked was what I was doing, and where. He then looked at me for 5 seconds, as if deciding, before letting me on my way. Wooooooo!!!!!!

What I took from all this? Travelling with transgender medication is doable, but nerve wracking. If I could, I would avoid Abu Dhabi, it just happened to be the cheapest flight. Having all the documention in order is a must to stay sane and fight the nerves. Otherwise, facilities are fine.

General trans life in Japan

Every so often a transgener topic pops up here, like a transman polititian or a transwoman celebrity. Japan seems more focused on working on it’s lesbian/gay acceptance atm. Different areas are deciding on legislation to allow marriage, adoption etc. At work I would not feel comfortable telling people I am transgender. Especially with the language barrier and not being able to answer any questions they had it would just be awkward. Plus I go to 4 schools and therefore have abount 30 teachers I regularly work with – I think it’s going to be hard to get to know any of them enough to feel I want to tell them. Bathroom facilities at school – well often there is one cubicle and thats it. As I don’t teach every lesson however, there is plenty of times when it’s free (and also a great place to go and check my phone messages).

I find Japan surprisingly a very male – female gendered society, although this may be different in the big cities – I am in the countryside, and things are quite traditional. Woman and men stay pretty seperate, woman seem 100% to be expected to be raising the kids, often while working a part time job or even full time. Saying that, I am very much on the periphery of society, so I don’t know the real emotions and feelings of the majority here. Maybe my “outsider” view is distorted.

I have avoided one invitation to a onsen – and will continue to do so. I will tackle beach/swimming stuff when I come to it if need be.

If anyone has any questions on other trans stuff in Japan feel free to message me 🙂 . For now it’s Golden Week and I have a few days off. Atm though, i’m lesson planning!

 

 

Trans anxiety – priority shift

Why am I not crazy worried about new job abroad currently? Short answer: basically, all the hassle you go through as a trans person makes you forget/sideline the other stuff that non-trans people are fretting about.

Take me preparing to live abroad in a couple of day’s time. My main concerns are:

  • Taking my meds and needles in cabin bag
  • Taking an STP through security and customs at airport
  • Sharing a room with an unknown cis-guy for a week
  • Bathroom situation abroad

These are things that i’m researching as much as possible, and getting prepped for. I get highly organised, I anticipate snags and print out evidence and back-ups. I find out my rights and try find trans people who have been in simular situations.  It makes me take a step back from the other “common” stuff to worry about when doing something major and I think:

well, tbh, as long as I can get the trans stuff sorted, I can deal with anything else

Setting up internet abroad? Finding the nearest supermarket? Setting up a bank account? Ordering dinner in a different language? Fine. I’ll do it somehow. It might be messy, it might not all go right. But I’m so used to having to deal with hidden surprises (thanks to all the complications of being trans) that it take A LOT to phase me now.

It’s not to say I don’t have nerves and stuff, it’s just…I can’t focus on everything at once, so I have a good distraction – a puzzle to solve as long as I am organised and logical about it all.

I’m having fun trying to pack.

Check luggage: I want to pack about 30kg.. I have 23kg.

Hand Luggage: I want to pack about 10kg..I have 7kg (with 2kg of that taken up by meds)

I am utilising pockets like nobody’s business. I look like gadget boy trying to shoplift.

Gadget boy

Had to visit the nurse briefly yesterday cause got freaked out by a load of goo coming from a stitch area on my chest whilst changing the micropore tape. I mean A LOT of stuff came out and left a small hole. Naturally I was concerned about an infection or something, but nurse reassured me it’s fine. Reminded me though that I still gotta be careful with my nips, even 2 months after surgery.

Anyway, so it comes to the end of an era for this blog. No more weekly’s. I’ll get the odd post in when I can and see how it goes. Hopfully this is not the end, just a shift in schedules.  **waves**!! 🙂

 

 

 

What do I feel?

Am I…..

  • Excited
  • Nervous
  • Frightened
  • Hopeful
  • Happy
  • Trepidatious
  • Sick

I could try cover it all with the word “emotional” but the thing is, I think my head is too confused about what it feels so I don’t (yet) have strong emotions running around. I don’t have the brain power to even get close to envisaging what my life might be like in 3 weeks time. Different.

I’m trying not to sweat the trans stuff. I’m going to read situations as they come, and tell people i’m trans if I feel comfortable doing it. Tbh, where I feel I can, I want to let people know, because I feel it’s part of my identity, and not saying can feel a bit like holding back. It can make me more nervous, because I hate the idea of them finding out accidentally in a way out of my control… I think that’s more awkward to deal with.

Saw the GP who has helped me loads in the past few years with sorting out transitioning and other stuff, and they gave me a nice boost, reminding me that these days, people are likley to be pretty blasé about the whole trans thing. No more appointments for anything before I leave now..ekkk.

My last normal blog will be next week, after that it will be spaced out and a bit random i’m afraid. I will be starting my journey and dealing with LOTS of stuff. I hope I will continue to post here, if just so there is another blog out there showing trans people that it is possible to travel and do what you wanna do… (well, hopfully I will feel this after living abroad for a while). I mean ofc i’m not going to rock up to Saudi and go round telling people i’m trans etc…but some stuff that seems like it might be too complicated, well, it’s all to do with mindset and accepting that there WILL be extra hurdles to jump, and that’s OK, it can be done.

And a quick thank you  to nath1809jones for nominating me for the Liebster Award :-). Currently too busy to write and pass on award but hopfully in the coming months will do!

Now, back to trying to make 26kg of luggage magically become 23kg….

Trains Trains Trains

Snooooowwwwww!!! 😀

It’s been snowing a tonne here, which has been a great distraction. Been going out

Home snow (4)

walking around the neighbourhood, kicking up the snow and just enjoying the new scenery. Going to do a Shackleton today and brave the elements to walk into town and see a friend. At least this snow did not come till AFTER my trip down South, talking of which….

I almost lost my arm this week on a train. Exciting stuff. I was sat in my booked aisle seat 30 mins into journey, when the person booked into the window seat boarded the train. Thing is, they were so big they took up a seat and a half. Turned out they really should have booked both seats.  Note: I have nothing against people who are obese etc, and this guy seemed nice enough, it’s just the situation was not — great. He wedged onto the seats, and tried to cram up. I edged in the 1/2 seat next to him. The next hour and and half was not fun. He started to fall asleep and “spread” so a large weight crushed my arm and I started to loose circulation in it. I wedged it out, he woke up. He crammed up a bit more. He fell asleep, he spread, I was crushed. I wedged out. REPEAT x 20.  Finally, 15 mins towards the end, I got out the seat early and just stood by the doors with a far-away look on my face.

Journey back the train, my thoughts:

Ahh, least journey back can’t be worse than journey there…

Person in front? With a pissed off newborn baby. GREAT.

One ear bud broke so I only had sound in my right ear. GREAT.

I am travelling again on Saturday to see my brother and partner – hoping that train journey will be a bit calmer – if it’s not cancelled/delayed due to snow!

Transition stuff

More hair!! Facial hair is really getting going. The “older” hair has gone dark round my chin and ‘tash, and the new blonder hair is spreading all over my cheeks. Still dabbing on Minoxidil every so often, really don’t know if it works. I’m trimming every 2/3 days. Still have not had a proper close shave yet.

I found out the other day I had grown out of several of my shirts. My shoulders are now too broad and biceps to big (def not complaining) for them. So I took a tip from a trans forum online and checked out the “boys” section of clothing in a local supermarket. Walked out the supermarket with shirts at half the price of adult ones!! :-D. Haha, turns out a 15-16 y/o shirt is a great fit, and it’s 2 for £6. It’s easier to find my size in “teenage boys” then it is to find it in the “mens” section. I recommend it if you are a shorter/smaller sized guy!

 

London and shout-outs

I was in London on Monday getting my visa sorted, and it reminded me of how “country” I am compared to big city folk. I wince at the price of a bottle of coke or a simple sandwich, feel awkward doing the “vacant” look on the tube, get in the way of loads of people whilst trying to figure out on google maps where the hell I am, and just generally look like a total tourist. All the new and loud sounds and sights left me exhausted and I could not even go to park to chill because it was drizzling ALL DAY.

My visa stuff only took 5 mins, but I wanted cheap trains so was left with 8 hrs to drift in London. I ended up in the Museum of London for a good 2 hours (1 hour looking around, 1 hour using their free wifi whilst rationing my £2.60 “large” coffee the size of a thimble). I also looked round about 15 souvenir shops, each looking more tacky than last, trying to find a “UK themed” cuddly toy to take out with me. Guess the cheapest for a mini cuddly toy? £9!! I think I would rather knit one thanks.

The rest of this week is slower, saw a friend for coffee which was nice, packed some more of my bag, i’ve been learning more Japanese and researching a lot. This weekend i’m off on a Sushi making course (Xmas prezzie from my parents) which i’m excited about – cause I get to take a load of sushi home! :-D.

Top Surgery/transitioning

It’s now over a month since top surgery, a nice milestone to reach. Healing is still going well, had a peek at my nips again this Wednesday. Can’t wait to get the micropore off, but still have 2 months to wait. But only 2 weeks till I can exercise, woooo!

Forgot to mention that my T levels have increased in the past few months to in the “normal” range. Basically, Nebido is making my levels higher than Testogel ever did, showing that all forms of T are not equal – or at least our individual way of processing them are not. I think the higher levels are a reason for my facial hair grow being on a major pulse atm. Also glad i’m not on testogel due to a major shortage in the UK currently – which is forcing people onto the stickier Testim gel version.

Talking more generally, i’ve found it refreshing recently to hear from more transguys willing to talk about the straight up facts about transitioning, especially some stuff which is harder to talk about.

  • One was a video by a guy on youtube “ElectricDade” who often does pretty deep talks. It is a talk about masculinity aimed at transmen, and I think it speaks a lot of truths about the pressures faced by transmen from many areas of society, both within the transgender community and outer circles. I think it’s a great talk for transguys just starting out transitioning to listen to, because it warns of the dangers of being lead into “proving your manliness” and how you can end up really being a type of man you are not, and actually being a not-nice guy, if you are not careful. I could talk way more about this, but I think the video covers it great. Worth a watch. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdrBUcFEneI
  • The second was a blog by “Cairtheand” documenting top surgery. Personally I know this is a hard thing to decide to do (and one that I ended up talking about, but not photographing) because it’s so personal. And much much harder when things don’t go exactly as planned. But that is what makes it so valuable to be out there online, so other transguys considering surgery don’t fall into a trap of thinking everyone has one surgery that goes perfect and is walking topless down the beach in 2 months. It’s a big surgery, and many people need revisions, emergency fixes, and have to wait long stretches of time for things to settle. It’s good to hear Cairtheand is healing well now, and a link to that page is: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/45317063/posts/1773598312

 

Anyway, long post, but now off to watch some Altered Carbon and play some SimCity, adios!

A mix

It’s now 1 month before I leave for Japan. And it’s been a pretty slow week.

Tomorrow I have to drive a 6hr round trip to see the gender clinic. Feel a bit stupid but I think I did the right thing. Basically, I know that if you don’t see the GIC/refuse to see GIC for so long, they throw you off thier books, and if you wanna come on again you join the end of the 2.5 year queue (welcome to the NHS).

So, I messaged them saying I was due an appointment cause I’m going away soon. After some to-ing and fro-ing I got an OK time appointment. Then the next day I was like “ah shit, I wonder if they do telephone appointments?” Turns out they do, but now (just a day later) they were mysteriously all full. Great. So off I will go. Worth it in the long run I suppose, cause if I just go away for a year, then at least I can come back and see them soon.

Chest is healing really well, it’s 3 weeks, coming on 4. I change micropore tape once a week and get a good peek at the nips. No pains, and def think this last surgery was worth it, I like the results more than after 2nd surgery. Too early to tell “final final” result though, will have a better idea in about 3 months.

London Bridge

Getting really fustrated atm at just wanting to get stuff done, feel like i’m hanging around the starting line and keep getting delayed. Trying my best to keep positive though and keep mental health in check. I go to London next week to sort out visa stuff and i’m meeting a friend down there for half a day as well so will be nice to catch up and wander round the city.

I have decided to experiment with keeping this blog going, just on a reduced basis once I leave. It may be hectic for a while though. All “hectic” means as it stands is “baking an apple crumble for a family meal on Saturday” hummm, think my definition will change soon. Soon hectic will be juggling several classes, trying to deciper complex characters on a daily basis, meeting millions of new people a day, and just generally being like a deer in headlights.

Until next week!